Westborough stormwater user fee could be on tap for residents

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Westborough stormwater user fee could be on tap for residents
A car passes in front of Westborough Town Hall last year. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – A new user fee could be flowing to the town’s residents and businesses.

During the Select Board’s Dec. 13 meeting, Department of Public Works Director Chris Payant presented to the board why a stormwater user fee is needed.

Payant said the costs to repair and replace the town’s stormwater infrastructure – including 4,763 catch basins, 1,576 drain manholes, 458 outfalls, 203 culverts, 53 detention basins and 314,305 linear feet of pipes – continue to increase.

“There’s always been a funding gap, and it’s increasing,” said Payant.

He cited not only the aging infrastructure, but also state mandates and capital improvements as reasons why he believes a user fee is needed.

“One hundred and fifty-five culverts have been assessed; many are beyond their life expectancy,” he said.

“We’ve had culverts that failed,” said Select Board Chair Ian Johnson.

Johnson added that the town needs to be “more proactive.”

Payant discussed several approaches on how a user fee could be implemented.

In one approach, the town could adopt a tax increase in the form of a municipal water infrastructure fund. It would be an annual vote for a surcharge of up to 3% on taxes to a dedicated fund.

Westborough could also adopt a stormwater utility user fee or enterprise fund, and fees could be structured based on changing priorities as well as user demands. 

The town could also adopt Water Management Act credits, which is a state program that regulates the amount of water taken from the state’s ground and surface water resources.

Fees would be based on a measure of a property’s impervious area. That means the larger the area, the larger the volume of stormwater runoff and the larger the user fee.

Payant showed a comparison with other communities that have adopted stormwater utility fees. For residential properties in communities such as Franklin and Shrewsbury, the fees can range from $56 to $90 per year, depending on whether the community is using a flat fee (such as Franklin) or a tiered approach (such as Shrewsbury).

Payant said there will be a meeting about adopting a stormwater fee in January. A proposal could be ready in time for the spring Town Meeting in March.

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